New Car Fuel Consumption & Emission Figures

This page was last updated on 10th November 2022


Measures to reduce car CO2 emissions

Car manufacturers are continuing to take action to reduce CO2 emission in order to meet binding targets as set by the European Commission and government has taken a number of fiscal steps to encourage the move to ULEVs and more fuel-efficient conventional vehicles. This includes changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED or ‘car tax’) and Company Car Tax.

In 1998, the European Commission and industry associations of the major motor vehicle manufacturers agreed to reduce the average CO2 emissions of new cars. This voluntary agreement aimed to cut the average CO2 emissions of new cars by over 25% by 2008/9 to 140g CO2/km, and as a result to see a 25% improvement in average fuel consumption.

In 2009 a European Regulation setting binding targets to reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars (EC Regulation No. 443/2009) entered into force. The main features of the Regulation are as follows:

  • The target is for an overall European fleet average of 130g/km of CO2 emissions from 2015 (phased in from 2012);
  • In order to meet this average, manufacturers are set a specific emissions target to meet, based on the types of vehicles they actually sell in any given year — rather than requiring each individual vehicle to be less than 130g CO2/km. This allows a broad range of vehicles to remain on sale with manufacturers deciding where they make improvements to ensure compliance;
  • The ‘type’ of vehicle is currently determined by its mass. Manufacturers that sell predominately heavier cars will have a higher grams of CO2/km target and vice versa;
  • There are different arrangements for manufacturers that produce <300,000 and <10,000 cars in any year, so as to protect the diversity of the market;
  • There was a further target for improvement from 2021, set at 95g CO2/km, phased in from 2020;
  • Failure to meet their individual target sees manufacturers receive a fine; from 2019 this is €95 per gram of exceedance per vehicle registered in the calendar year;
  • In 2019, a new regulation (EU Regulation No. 631/2019) was agreed by Member States, establishing new CO₂ reduction targets of 15% by 2025 and 37.5% reduction by 2030, both against a 2021 baseline.

There are several facts to bear in mind for anyone owning or driving a car who is wondering how the Regulation will affect them:

  • The regulation is purely a matter for manufacturers.  It will not directly require drivers or car buyers to do anything different.  However, manufacturers might encourage sales of their more fuel-efficient models in order to ensure that they meet the target that they have been given;
  • It works on an average basis.  It does not require individual cars to meet a particular threshold for CO2 (unlike air quality legislation) or ban cars on the basis of their CO2 emissions;
  • It only applies to new cars.  It does not mean that older, higher-emitting, cars have to be taken off the road;
  • It applies to all new cars registered in the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.  It does not just apply to European manufacturers;
  • It is not about setting different targets for different countries.  Whilst manufacturers may, of course, choose to vary what they offer between countries, the targets are for the EU as a whole;
  • It does not tell governments how to set vehicle-related taxes.  This will continue to be a matter for each country.

In the UK, a number of fiscal steps have been taken to promote the purchase and use of more fuel-efficient vehicles:

  • In the March 2001 Budget the Chancellor announced the extension of the lower rate of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to cover cars in the Private and Light Goods (PLG) taxation class with an engine size of 1549cc or less;
  • Since March 2001, a system of Graduated VED has been in operation for new cars based primarily on their level of CO2 emissions. The system is currently comprised of 13 CO2 bands. Since April 2010, a different rate of tax applies to a vehicle at first registration (first licence).  The standard year rate applies in subsequent years. Zero emission vehicles are exempt from all VED;
  • Since April 2002, company car tax has been based on the CO2 emissions of the vehicle provided to an employee for their private use;
  • Since April 2013, news cars emitting less than 95g CO2 per km can qualify for a 100% first-year allowance. Cars that are leased do not qualify;
  • Electric vehicles are also exempt from the fuel benefit charge, as electricity is not classed as a fuel.

CO2 Targets for Vans

In June 2011, Regulation (EC) 510/2011 entered into force.  It follows a similar format to the Regulation for cars, but applies to new light-duty vans (that is N1 vehicles, under the definitions used in European legislation). It set a near-term European fleet average target of 175g CO2/km to be achieved from 2017 (phased-in from 2014).  A longer-term target of 147g CO2/km has been set from 2020. In 2019, new targets were agreed as part of Regulation 2019/631 mandating a 15% CO₂ reduction by 2025 and a 31% CO₂ reduction by 2030, using the 2021 baseline.  Different arrangements apply to manufacturers registering fewer than 22,000 vans in any given calendar year.

In the UK, a number of measures have been introduced to promote the purchase of zero-emission vans.

  • Zero emission vans currently pay 60% of the van benefit charge for vans which emit CO2. In Budget 2014 the Government announced this support will be extended to 5 April 2022 on a tapered basis;
  • Electric vans are also exempt from the van fuel benefit charge, as electricity is not a fuel;

The Department for Transport has confirmed that drivers who hold a category B driving licence are now able to operate alternatively fuelled vans, provided they complete a minimum of 5 hours additional relevant training. The new law comes as part of the government’s commitment to encourage the transition to ultra-low emission vehicles, as set out in the Road to Zero Strategy.

The effects of air pollution on health varies widely between individuals and sub-groups of the population.  In particular air pollution is known to affect the elderly, children, and those suffering from chronic respiratory diseases (e.g. bronchitis and asthma) and heart disease.

The effects of these exhaust gases are described in more detail below:

Gas Information
CO Carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity which can reduce the availability of oxygen to key organs.  Extreme levels of exposure, such as might occur due to blocked flues in domestic boilers, can be fatal.  At lower concentrations CO may pose a health risk, particularly to those suffering from heart disease.
NOx Oxides of nitrogen is the total amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and nitric oxide (NO); NO quickly reacts in the atmosphere to form NO2.  Exposure to NO2 at roadside concentrations can have adverse effects on health, particularly among people with respiratory illness.  The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants has identified that the evidence associating exposure to NO2 with health effects has strengthened substantially in recent years.  NOx also contributes to smog formation, and acid rain, can damage vegetation, contributes to ground-level ozone formation and can react in the atmosphere to form fine particles (‘secondary particles’).
PM Particulate matter.  Exposure to fine particles has an adverse effect on human health, particularly among those with existing respiratory disorders.  Particulate matter is associated with respiratory and cardiovascular problem.  29,000 equivalent deaths a year in the UK are attributable to fine particulate pollution.
HC Hydrocarbons contribute to ground-level ozone formation leading to risk of damage to the human respiratory system. Some kinds of hydrocarbons, in addition, are both carcinogenic and indirect greenhouse gases.

The European Union Ambient Air Quality Directive sets maximum permissible levels for roadside concentrations of pollutants thought to be harmful to human health and the environment.  The UK meets almost all these levels, however, achieving the air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide presents the greatest challenge, especially in urban areas the government is committed to meeting those standards in as short as time as possible.

Emissions of these air quality pollutants from road vehicles have been reduced by improving the quality of fuels and by setting increasingly stringent emission limits for new vehicles, which has encouraged the fitting by manufacturers of appropriate technology.  As an example, it would take 50 new cars to produce the same quantity of particulate matter per kilometre as a vehicle made in 1970.  Over the last twenty years increasingly stringent emission limits have been set at a European level, starting with the “Euro1” limits in 1993.

Since September 2015 virtually all newly registered cars have had to meet the Euro 6 standard.  Emissions of NOx have been further reduced following the strengthening of test procedures with the adoption of real driving emissions (RDE).  RDE step 1, (Euro 6d-Temp) is compulsory for new models registered from September 2017 and all new cars registered from September 2019.  RDE step 2 (Euro 6d), which sets an even tighter margin between the laboratory limits and real world performance, became applicable in January 2020 for new models and then from January 2021, will apply to all cars.

Information on the level of air pollutant emissions recorded for new models of cars at their type approval test is listed in the data table, alongside the CO2 and fuel consumption figures. Unlike the CO2 and fuel consumption figures, the figures for air pollutant emissions should not be used to directly compare different models of vehicle.  The figures for these emissions are indicative rather than absolute, and emissions of them will vary within an acceptable range between individual production vehicles for each model.

As well as being required to meet strict emission limits before a vehicle enters into service, all vehicles must be able to meet these limits whilst they are in service (unless specifically exempted).

Changes to the MOT test which affects emissions standards for diesel vehicles were introduced in the UK on 20 May 2018.  If a vehicle’s emissions limit is listed on the manufacture’s plate (which is usually found on the bottom inside of a vehicle’s door frame) then a vehicle’s emissions at its next MOT will need to meet the maximum level listed on the plate.  If no emissions value is listed on the plate then the vehicle will be tested, as it previously would have been, to the default limit set for the age of the vehicle.  For all Euro 6 vehicles the default limit will be 0.7m-1 compared to the current 1.5m-1.

A vehicle will fail its MOT if any emissions control system or component has been removed or tampered with. One example of such a component which must be in working order is the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).

It is an offence under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations (Regulation 61a(3)) to use a vehicle which has been modified in such a way that it no longer complies with the air pollutant emissions standards it was designed to meet. The potential penalties include a maximum fine of £1,000 for a car.